Saturday, March 12, 2011, 4:54 p.m.
By Mark Zuckerman
Bryce Harper was among four players cut by the Washington Nationals following Saturday 's 6-5 win over the New York Yankees in Viera, Fla., bringing an end to the 18-year-old's first experience in a big-league spring training camp.
Harper was optioned to low-Class A Hagerstown, where he is expected to begin the season.
The three other players sent down were left-hander Atahualpa Severino (optioned to Class AAA Syracuse) and right-handers Tim Wood and Ryan Mattheus (re-assigned to minor-league camp).
Harper's demotion comes as no surprise. Despite his insistence he could challenge for a spot on the Opening Day roster, the Nationals had no intention of doing that. Team officials want last summer's No. 1 draft pick to gain experience at the lowest levels of the minor leagues before promoting him up the chain.
Harper wound up producing solid offensive numbers during his brief stint in big-league camp. In 13 games (all off the bench), he went 7-for-18 with three doubles, five RBI, a walk and three strikeouts. In his final appearance Saturday afternoon, he got plunked in the right shoulder by an 0-2 fastball from Yankees left-hander Robert Fish, helping set the stage for Derek Norris' walk-off single.
Despite his impressive stats, Harper did look overmatched at times facing big-league pitchers, especially those who threw him a steady diet of breaking balls and change-ups. He made a few nice catches in right field but also threw wildly to the plate Thursday night to end a loss to the Houston Astros.
Mark Zuckerman also blogs about the Nationals at natsinsider.com. You can reach him at email@example.com.